Mercy Health physician and infectious disease specialist Dheeraj Goyal, MD is sounding the alarm on a new highly resistant “superbug” fungus that is gaining ground locally and in the United States.

Candida auris, or C. auris, is a newer sub-species of Candida yeast that is circulating in the United States. There have been recent outbreaks of this super-fungus in Boston, Detroit and Las Vegas. While some states have yet to see their first case of C. auris, there were at least 50 cases in Ohio last year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. We also saw a few cases of this last year in patients admitted from long-term care facilities to at least two of the area hospitals,” says Dr. Goyal, who practices from Mercy Health – Fairfield Hospital

“Most physicians are not aware of what this yeast is and how it’s different from others. It is the only form of Candida that can become resistant to all available antifungal medications, including amphotericin B. This particular sub-species of Candida can often be misrecognized by microbiology labs, can cause outbreaks in health care settings and if it enters blood or vital organs like the liver or brain, it can lead to serious consequences for patients, including death,” he adds.

The CDC notes that “C. auris is an emerging fungus that presents a serious global health threat” and it labels the fungus as an urgent threat in its “Antibiotic Resistance Threats Report” released in 2019. This fungus is typically seen in residents of long-term health care facilities, where it can spread very rapidly.

C. auris does not typically present a problem for healthy people, but its effects can be very bad in those living in long-term care facilities due to other pre-existing medical comorbidities,” Dr. Goyal says. “It can be difficult to identify and if you don’t use an effective isolation strategy, it can spread rapidly. If the patient has a history of Candida infections, prior use of antifungal medications or has been in a location with an outbreak of C. auris, the lab identifying the strain of Candida needs to know about this. That way, lab personnel can take adequate precautions and used specialized tests to determine if it’s C. auris. Doctors in long-term care facilities should be especially vigilant for C. auris. They should immediately place these patients in isolation and contact their infectious disease specialists, so that appropriate treatment protocols can be initiated.”

“Because of C. auris’ potential to spread rapidly in health care settings, patients who may have the fungus should be placed in strict contact isolation and their care team should wear gloves and isolation gowns and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water,” Dr. Goyal adds. “The general public should follow these same precautions when visiting loved ones with C. auris. A 10 percent bleach solution made fresh daily is the recommended disinfection agent for high-touch surfaces like bedrails, nursing carts, windowsills, etc. in health care locations with C. auris patients. Routine fungicidal disinfection agents, alcohol wipes or quaternary ammonia compounds (QACs) are not typically effective against C. auris.”